Posts Tagged 'Sweden'


Black-headed Gull, Common (or Mew) Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and European Herring Gull. (A single click will make this picture larger.)Lesser Black-backed and Herring comparison. Yellow legs versus pink legs, in addition to the size and wing color. Some outtakes.

Mammal Monday

This European or Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) was as big as most of the dogs in Göteborg. We were surprised to see it on a backstreet one evening. I think some of the locals were, too. The species has been expanding its range in Sweden.Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris).Like our Eastern Greys, which have become invasive in other parts of Europe, these are very active in parks. Eastern Cottontail back on the homefront, in Prospect Park last week.

Svenska fåglar

Större hackspett. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). That belly! Spotted in Göteborg’s Slottsskogen park.Sädesärla. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). Spotted everywhere.Knipa. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). These are females, and if you look closely you’ll see they’re banded. They were in the zoo’s pond. Others were seen in Göteborg’s canals, as well as on lake Vänern.Bofink. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) male. Omnipresent.Reprise.Back almost a week now (!) from a week-long trip. More pictures and tales to come!



On a clear day, you can see Labrador from about 38,000 feet. On Monday, the place was still frozen. Our plane was somewhere near the Quebec border; of course, it may even have been Quebec. It’s hard to see most borders on the face of the earth. A meandering river, thawed in parts, with ox bow lakes picked out by the snow and ice. This flight, on a nearly empty 747 (?!), really took me back to my roots in geography. Lots of good views of landforms. Holland’s barrier beaches (hey, Doggerland!) and vibrant rectangles of tulips. The sandy teardrop turned out to be Noorderhaaks. Then came the irregular hedged fields in southern England, still essentially medieval, in such contrast to the rough hills of Wales. Ireand was clouded over and I took up five empty seats to lay down. South of the St. Lawrence, the fields were long and rectangular, short ends abutting straight roads. Sky resorts in Vermont looked like a gigantic catamount had raked her claws down the slopes.Some of the lichen on the Jättekullen stones in Södra Härene, Sweden. This is a 4000 year old stone cist, or burial chamber, the largest of its kind in the country at 14 by 4 meters.

A Tale of Two Kingfishers

A female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in Green-Wood Cemetery recently. You almost always hear these birds before you see them. This one wasn’t rattling loudly, it was more of a whisper or grumble under her breath. Nonetheless, my ears crested, as it were, when I heard that dry sound.

I find Kingfishers generally intolerant of people. That’s no insult. But here’s a male I got a little closer to at the beginning of the year. It was in the same tree as this more recent female.While there are two other kingfisher species found in the Rio Grande Valley, the Belted is widespread across North American. Europe, meanwhile, has a single species, simply called Kingfisher or Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). I finally saw one! This small, colorful species, which looks all the world like it belongs in a rainforest, is elusive.And, for such a vibrantly colored bird, it’s hard to pick out in the green. Here, for instance, are two in a park in Malmö, Sweden. This is about the northern limit of their range. (How I wish my photos were better!) Both Belted and Common have white spots to front of their eyes, but this isn’t at all universal among the 114 members of the kingfisher family.That turquoise!


The National Museum of Copenhagen is filled with flint tools from the pre-metal millennia. This stuff makes for very sharp edges. The stone of Europe’s Stone Age, flint stones were also used to start fires and spark guns into the 19th century. The Baltic beaches were littered with nodules of this dark chert. It’s a finely-grained quartz, not, as I first thought, obsidian (which is volcanic glass). This fist-sized and rather knuckle-like piece was my Swedish souvenir, found on a beach in Malmo. Here’s the verso and recto of a piece I split on the Northumberland coast a few years ago when my dearheart said the original piece was too large to carry back on the plane.The white coating here is typical. According to this site, “The thick white crust, the cortex, is not made of chalk, but of fine-grained opaline silica.”

The Blackbird of Song and Legend

The Common or Eurasian Blackbird, Turdus merula. Unlike our New world blackbirds, this is a thrush, and rather similar to the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) in habit. Our blackbirds are Icteridae; the thrushes are Turdidae. Our Robin, meanwhile, isn’t related to their Robin (Erithacus rubecula).This is the bird that bursts out of the pie, alive and grumpy, no doubt, from being covered in pastry shell and crowded together in there with three and twenty others. This is also the one that sings in the dead of night, which I can attest to from some short spring nights in the Scottish highlands.

For a common bird, they proved elusive on our Sweden trip. They were molting out of breeding plumage and therefore keeping low and deep.

Speaking of music: friend of blog Jose Conde has organized a concert for November 2 at Littlefield here in Brooklyn to celebrate his 50th birthday and raise funds for tree-planting in Costa Rica. Tickets are only $5; should they be more for this line-up?


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